In a future that is already present, our houses will be more and more “intelligent” thanks to science and to new technologies, which are radically changing the way we live. Innovations do not only concern appliances, equipment and systems; for years, in fact, scientific research has been focused on smart textiles and their applications in many fields.

An example? Curtains or other home fabrics that can change their colour depending on the type of washing carried out, so you can switch to dark colors in the summer season (to protect the environment from the sun) and then turn to lighter shades in winter, when light is less.

This is the area of interest of the Sensichrom project, funded by the Piedmont Region through, the Textile Innovation Cluster managed by Città Studi Biella, in Italy. The project is the result of a collaboration between two companies based in Piemonte Region (YANGA, manufacturer of bandages and medical products, and TINTORIA FINISSAGGIO 2000, a specialized dyeing and finishing company), while the scientific part of the project was developed by the National Research Council CNR-STIIMA in its department based in Biella.

“The Sensichrom project aims at developing, at industrial level, textile materials sensitive to pH – says Marco Bardelle, Chairman of the Steering Committee of Pointex and CEO of Tintoria Finissaggio 2000 – The results we achieved make us understand how crucial the role of research and innovation is for companies. This project is just one of the many examples of how the textile world can renew itself and conquer new slices of the market”.

“The first laboratory tests have given excellent results and have already been published in the scientific journal Coloration Technology – says Vittorio Bobba of Yanga – The work, however, is not concluded yet; we have certainly obtained a first and exciting result, but it is necessary to invest more time and energy in research, with the aim of having these incredible fabrics on the market soon”.

The textiles developed in Biella district are able to change colour according to the pH value: they have one color in an acid environment, while they take another colour in a basic one. This particular feature can also be exploited in different technical applications, for instance in the biomedical field. It is in fact known that the pH of an intact and healthy skin assumes characteristic values of about 5.5, while in case of inflammatory state the pH of the skin can reach 8. Having a bandage that signals these changes can be of great help in the treatment of wounds.

According to the results obtained in the CNR-STIIMA laboratories, dyes were selected on the basis of technical parameters and dyeing capacity and the most suitable fabrics for application were identified.

During the project, a multi-stage industrial process was developed to improve the dyeing process, which involves an initial preparation of the fabric, a subsequent dyeing and a fixing phase of the dye. The fabrics also showed high sensitivity to the “pH reversing” test: if again immersed in solutions with the proper pH value, they can return to the original colour.